Human traffickers target teens and children with local advertising

PELHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Police say human trafficking predators are using any and every means available to find victims, including seemingly harmless grassroots advertising.

“Yeah, it occurs everyday in every neighborhood across the country,” said Investigator Brad Jordan with the Pelham Police Department. “When we focus on one area and shut it down, inevitably another one is going to pop up so it’s always a cat and mouse game. It’s always been that way.”

He said signs beside the road with only phone numbers or websites can be hard for the public to verify as legitimate businesses. They often offer easy jobs, fast money or an alluring lifestyle to get young people and even children to take the bait.

“It’s basic advertising 101. It’s getting your name brand out there as much as possible,” said Jordan.

And he said the same thing is happening on social media.

“They always have a good thing to say. It’s called grooming. Call this number, go to this website, your child 11, 12, 13, 14 they can babysit, they can come do this, or they can travel,” said Alexa James, the Vice President and Co-Founder of Blanket Fort Hope.

She says the best way to protect your children is to educate them and educate yourself as well.

“It’s happening in our state, it’s happening right here in our communities. And we don’t want people to be fearful, but knowledge is power,” said James.

Blanket Fort Hope provides services for child victims of trafficking and right now they’re working to open a facility in Shelby County. You can learn more about them at blanketforthope.org

Blanket Fort Hope is hosting a Hoops for Hope event at Pelham High School on August 12, 2017. Find out more HERE.

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